China’s Hypersonic Glider Passes New Test

The DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle. Photo: People's Daily Online.The DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle. Photo: People's Daily Online.

China has successfully completed a seventh flight test of its new hypersonic glide vehicle last week in its northern central Shanxi province, according to an article on People’s Daily Online.

The “DF-ZF” glider can travel at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, which is 5 to 10 times the speed of sound.

The Chinese news site reported that U.S. intelligence fears that Beijing may use DF-ZF to “deliver nuclear weapons bypassing even the most complex of missile defense systems,” citing an article in the Washington Free Beacon.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman first confirmed China’s hypersonic missile test in March 2015, saying that the missile test was not aimed at any country and was done for scientific research, according to the People’s Daily online.

The U.S. Air Force has made some progress in developing its own hypersonic weapon, which is based on the success of an experimental scramjet program.

The service in 2013 conducted its fourth and longest flight of the so-called X-51 WaveRider. After separating from a rocket launched beneath the wing of a B-52 bomber, the hypersonic vehicle built by Boeing Co. climbed to 60,000 feet, accelerated to Mach 5.1 and flew for about three and a half minutes before running out of fuel and plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

At that speed, which is equivalent to about 3,400 miles per hour, a missile could travel from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta in just several minutes.

The nine-year, $300 million X-51 program was designed to demonstrate that the military could build a scramjet capable of accelerating, ingesting hydrocarbon fuel, and actively cooling in flight, according to U.S. Air Force officials. Unlike a traditional engine, a scramjet, or supersonic combusting ramjet, has very few moving parts and relies on an air-breathing propulsion system to travel faster than the speed of sound.

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Matt Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.